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What I've Learned From No-Tilling: From Rough Start To Smooth Ride, We Keep Looking

An open mind about management practices and equipment is a key tool in taking no-till fields to their full potential.

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Name: Maury McLean

Location: Lancaster, Wis.

Years Of No-Tilling: 20

Acres: 1,300 (Informal partnership with son Paul and neighbor Joe Zenz)

No-Tilled Crops: Corn, soybeans, wheat, cereal rye, annual ryegrass

Ww started no-tilling in the mid-1980s with the wrong attitude, the wrong tools and not enough knowledge to make it work. It fell flat on its face. Yet, here we are in 2006, confidently no-tilling 1,300 acres.

Our corn yields have increased 35 to 40 bushels over the past few years, and we’re seeing dramatic changes in the soil, including an explosion of nightcrawlers. Needless to say, we learned a lot along the way about no-tilling, equipment, soil and perseverance.

After adding no-till acres incrementally over the years, this will be the first season we no-till our entire operation here in southwestern Wisconsin. This is exciting because each year that we’ve come closer to complete, continuous no-till, things have just gotten better.

No-till got a big boost when the 1985 Farm Bill mandated a whole range of conservation practices. For us it seemed logical and more profitable to start no-tilling our highly erodible slopes first, but after we saw the vigorous crops and higher yields we were getting, it didn’t take long to start shifting to no-till on our flatter land as well. I farm in an informal partnership with my son Paul, who manages a local John Deere dealership, and a neighbor, Joe Zenz. We work together on planting, spraying and harvest. We’re still among only…

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Ron Ross

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